Guess which one's the dude.
In some works, female animals, aliens, monsters and fantastical/mythical creatures tend to have lighter fur, feathers, scales, or skin on their bodies than male animals, aliens, monsters, and fantastical/mythical creatures.
This trope may have its roots in the fact that, on average, human women of a given ancestry have a lighter skin tone than men of the same ancestry and that there is a sexual preference for paleness in women and darkness in men in many cultures throughout the world. To the limited extent that this trope is expected of real-life humans, it's actually an evolutionary adaptation, because darker skin minimizes the risk of skin cancer, but women require large amounts of vitamin D during pregnancy to avoid birth defects, so the risk of skin cancer is outweighed by this need.
This is also true of many other species, especially avians. Males tend to have darker, flashier colors, while females are more drab—peacocks are an especially dramatic example. Some species invert
this, notably raptors, where the females are larger, darker, and have more ostentatious markings.
This trend actually goes way back in art history as well. Often the way to discern gender in old, simple paintings was by the skin tone. Also, in a lot of anime and manga, the skin color difference between the sexes will be exaggerated.
To invert this, some will go further in the opposite direction than played-straight examples go in the original, such as giving a pale guy a dark-skinned girlfriend, etc...
Obviously a case of Color-Coded for Your Convenience
, serving an identification function similar to Tertiary Sexual Characteristics
. Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy
is tangentially related. See also Light Girl, Dark Boy
and Where Da White Women At?
. Not to be confused with Light Feminine and Dark Feminine
Animal (Real or Fictional Species) Examples
Anime and Manga
- In both Ginga Nagareboshi Gin anime series, the girl Akitas are lighter tans while the boys are silver and flat brown.
- Inverted with Luna (a female black cat) and Artemis (a male white cat) from Sailor Moon.
- Female animals in the Ice Age movies tend to have lighter colored fur than the male animals. Inverted with Scrat and Scratette, however.
- The wolves and elephants in The Jungle Book.
- Faline the female fawn has lighter colored fur than Bambi and Ronno, the two male fawns.
- In The Lion King, nearly all the lionesses are lighter compared to the the male lions. Even Timon's mom from The Lion King 1˝ is a peach-y tan color compared to the male meerkat shades of tawny. Inverted with Sarabi, who is darker than Mufasa.
- As the trope picture shows, Aleu from Balto II: Wolf Quest has lighter fur than her father Balto; both are wolf/dog hybrids.
- The female mouse, Bianca, from The Rescuers is lighter than the male mouse, Bernard. In The Rescuers Down Under, Marahute the mother eagle's feather color is a softer golden brown than the feather belonging to the fallen father (possibly justified, since the male had been dead for quite a while, and the feathers might have become dirtier). The same goes for some of the reptiles in both movies, lighter green girls darker green or brown green guys.
- Rio does it with Blu (the male Spix's Macaw) and Jewel (the female Spix's Macaw).
- The Land Before Time has several species of dinosaurs with lighter females. The triceratops do it best, Cera is cream orange while her dad is charcoal. This may actually be due to age instead of gender, since there is a blink and you'll miss a shot of Cera's mother, whose coloring is identical to her dad's.
- The animals in the older Chronicles of Narnia cartoon had lighter girls than males. Beavers are one example of this.
- Inverted with the two hawks that appear near the end of the song "Colors of the Wind" from Pocahontas where the male hawk is colored light brown, while the female is colored dark gray.
- Vixey from The Fox and the Hound for some reason actually does not have "stockings" like Tod, a male fox.
- Coral (Marlin's late wife and Nemo's would-been mother) has lighter orange scales than that of Marlin, as seen at the very beginning of Finding Nemo.
- The female moose from Brother Bear 2, Anda and Kata, are a much lighter shade of brown than those of Rutt and Tuke, a pair of male moose. Also, at the end of the film, Nita (Kenai's girlfriend), is actually given lighter-colored fur after being turned into a bear herself so that she can be with Kenai (whom by the end of the first film, had actually decided to stay a bear) forever.
- The gorillas in Tarzan: Kerchak is black, Kala is light brown, and Terk (who is female) is bluish-grey.
- In The Princess and the Frog, Tiana and Naveen play this trope straight in their frog forms, even though they invert it in human forms (but that's because they are of different race).
- Legend Of The Guardians The Owls Of Ga Hoole follows this trope at the expense of accuracy by having a whiter-than normal female snowy owl. It also makes the females owls smaller than the males, when in real life the females are bigger.
- Lulubelle the female bear from the "Bongo" segment of Fun and Fancy Free is lighter than both the antagonist male bear, Lumpjaw, and the titular male bear of the segment.
- Inverted by the title felines in Black Cat, White Cat. As we learn when we see them "coupling" near the end of the film, the black cat is female, the white cat is male.
- In Kingsley's Adventure, the rabbit queen is skin tone while the rabbit king and the male guards are brown.
- In the Crash Bandicoot series, there is Coco, who is peach-ey whereas Crash is orange and Crunch is brown. The other girl bandicoots are on the lighter side too.
- Star Fox Adventures has lighter female dinosaurs and pterosaurs, most notably the Cloud Runners (some sort of pteranodon). Snowhorns are some sort of mammoth in which the females are lighter than the males. Krystal is lighter (purple) too but that changes in Star Fox Assault.
- Sonic the Hedgehog characters tend to fall under this. The male characters tend to be darker or bolder colors such as blue, red, and black, whilst female characters tend to be lighter pastel colors such as pink, lilac, or cream. However, this is sometimes inverted; as there are also males with colors such as yellow, white, and light grey; and females with colors such as orange-brown and (dark) violet.
- In Redwall the animated series, males are brown, dark red or shades of silver while females are peach-tan.
- In Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (the stop animation one), Claurice the doe has lighter fur than Rudolph the male reindeer.
- Inverted with Mac and Tosh's (the Goofy Gophers from Looney Tunes) aunt from The Looney Tunes Show; her base fur color is brown, while their base fur color is tan.
- Clarice the female chipmunk has lighter colored fur than Chip 'n Dale the two male chipmunks.
- Inverted in The Amazing World of Gumball. Anais Watterson the female bunny is a darker shade of pink than her father Richard.
- Horses have subtle variation of this. Stallions tend to have a bit more intense and deeper colors than mares. If a stallion is gelded, his coat eventually turns a little duller in color.
- The most macho lions have the darkest manes.
- Often, female mammals will appear lighter because they produce less sebum (skin oil) than males, which means their coats stay cleaner.
- Common in butterflies. The female is either similar but more or less showy (either browner or greyer), or lighter all over.
- Inverted with snowy owls as only males get whiter with each molt and females stay much darker and much more speckled.
- The females of most birds will often tend to have more muted colors than the males. Some are extremely obvious, such as cardinals, where the male is bright red, while the female is tan with red highlights. Others, such as blue jays, are less obvious. Ostriches play this straight without being flamboyantly colored. The males have mostly black feathers, the females have brown.
- Inverted with many seabirds and birds-of-prey however, where the females are actually darker than the males.
- Most grizzly/polar bear hybrids have a grizzly bear father and a polar bear mother.
- Likewise, most leopard/lion and jaguar/lion hybrids have a leopard or jaguar father and a lioness mother, because they are closer in size. The far larger lions rarely see the much smaller leopard and jaguar females as potential mates. An exaggerated version of the trope happened in Toronto in 2006 when a black jaguar and a lioness mated unexpectedly and (now inverting the trope) produced a black female cub and a spotted male cub.
- The banteng, a species of cattle native to East Asia, is largely sexually homomorphic, but for one difference: the females are a reddish brown, and the males are a dark black color.
- The extinct aurochs was the same in this regard. Males were black with a reddish stripe on the back, females were all red.
Alien and Monster Examples
- DC Comics does this a lot with aliens (and possibly monsters if given a gender). Martian Manhunter is a darker green than Miss Martian in the cartoon Young Justice but it may vary in the comics.
- Farscape has the Nebari, a species of Human Aliens whose men all have black hair and women white hair, although they all have the same shade of blue-grey skin.
- Inverted with Hippopotas and Hippowdon where the female is darker.
- Played straight with Doduo and Dodrio who have lighter necks when they are female.
- Some of the fourth generation Pokémon have this as a gender difference.
- The Ralts line, where the male-only Gallade has darker green hair than the more feminine-but both gendered Kirlia and Gardevoir (Ralts averts this by having a gender-neutral appearance).
- Meowstic, where males are primarily dark blue but have white accents while females are white with dark blue accents.
- The Nidoran lines: males are purple, females are light blue and tan.
- In Ben 10, the squid faces (Gilgax's species) has lighter green girls. Applies to the Fourarms female who is a pastel red versus Ben's/Fourarm's brick-red. Most of the Ben 10 species do this (pastel and lighter girls then robust and darker guys) if the female is ever seen.
Deity and Fantastical and Mythical Creature Examples
- The dragon siblings from Danny Phantom are an example. In their dragon forms, Dora the Dragon Goast (the sister) is light blue, and her older brother, Prince Aragon is black. The dragons have a human-ghost form too, but they don't count as examples in that form.
- Power Rangers and Super Sentai: Blue Rangers are usually male and wear a deep shade of blue. When things are switched up on occasion and a team has a girl as the Blue Ranger, she wears a lighter sky blue instead.
- Multiple Kamen Riders have female counterparts (in terms of looks or fighting style) who's suits possess a lighter shade than their male counterparts. Examples include:
- Kamen Rider Ryuki: The white and gold Kamen Rider Femme against the silver and dark blue Kamen Rider Knight. Both are swordfighters using a similar style.
- Kamen Rider Decade introduces the white and mauve Kamen Rider Kivala, a female version of the red and black Kamen Rider Kiva.
- Aztec art and books often portrayed the males as burnt-orange and the females as pale yellow.
- The Ancient Minoans and Mycenaeans did this as well - the males are painted a dark brown, while the female are painted as white (literally white, not a light skin tone). In his illustrated version of The Legend of Odysseus, Peter Connolly depicts gods and goddesses in this fashion, as contemporary images of idealised beauty.
- Speaking of ancient cultures, this one of many rules of ancient Egyptian paintings. Men were always painted with a dark-reddish pigment and women with a yellowish-paint.
- In the WWE, the majority of their championship belts are made of gold,◊ or, in the case of the Tag Team Championships, copper or bronze.◊ The one major exception is the Divas Championship, which is pink and silver.◊
- The English folk song "Sweet Polly Oliver" (whence cometh the trope of the same name) describes a woman disguising herself as a man and enlisting in the army to keep an eye on her beau while he's off to war. One of the things she does to make herself convincing is darken her skin.